In Search of Holden Caulfield (Film Review: “Coming Through the Rye”)

The true story of the high school boy who knocked on J.D. Salinger’s door in 1969 after running away from boarding school. Meeting his literary hero was only part of the journey.


SnapShot Plot

Coming Through the Rye is a tender coming of age story about the power of literature on a young mind, and how an identification with a transformative fictional character can save a soul. The story starts out at a fictional all-boys boarding school in rural Pennsylvania, where Jamie Schwartz (in a delicate performance by newcomer, Alex Wolffe) is held in contempt by his roguish classmates, and whose only true calling seems to be in bringing the novel, The Catcher in the Rye to the theatrical stage. He’s already adapted the book as a theatrical school project and feels destined to not only play Holden Caulfield on his campus stage but feels confident that Broadway will come calling soon and the Hollywood production won’t be far behind. For reasons that aren’t revealed right away, Jamie’s affection for the character of Holden exceeds simple admiration; he doesn’t just want to play him, he wants to be him. So with the help of Deedee, a sincere and idealistic local girl from a neighboring school (in a lovely fresh-faced performance by newcomer, Stefania Owen) the two set off on a road trip to the hinterlands of New Hampshire determined to find Salinger and obtain his blessing on the script. Along the way, their blossoming friendship innocently develops into something deeper and the two find themselves embarking on a more intimate journey than they could have predicted.



Parting Shot

Written and directed by James Steven Sadwith, based on his real-life encounter with the reclusive J. D. Salinger himself, Coming Through the Rye is clearly a labor of love and a memoir project. Sadwith has said that, although his actual road trip took place with a buddy from NJ in whose car they drove to the New Hampshire residence of Salinger, the dialogue in the two scenes between Jamie Schwartz and the legendary writer (here played by the great Chris Cooper) were replicated almost word for word. He goes on to say that the local characters they encountered around the rural hideout of Salinger was also based on historical fact. Apparently the community did their best to honor the author’s wishes to be left alone. In it’s ability to capture a simpler time and place, as well as the innocence and yearnings of youth, Coming Through the Rye proved to be a welcome respite from the phoniness all around us, which is just what Holden would have wanted.


Coming Through the Rye is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer:

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